Jeremy Hunt Called 'A Liar And Manipulator' By Junior Doctor Rachel Clarke During Live BBC Interview

08/02/2016 09:06 | Updated 08 February 2016

A junior doctor accused Jeremy Hunt of "spin", "manipulation" and "lies" in a damning interview discussing the ongoing battle between the government and those on the frontline of the NHS.

SEE ALSO: Doctors Demand Hunt Works At Weekends Too

Rachel Clarke was talking in response to comments the Health Secretary made on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning in which he blamed the BMA for strike action.

Hunt was left looking decidedly uncomfortable when Andrew Marr read him a selection of remarks from junior doctors on the front line of the NHS.

Quoting one, Marr said: "The profession is at absolute breaking point. I see doctors in tears because they are so despairing over what the future holds. Jeremy Hunt has done this. He's driving away a whole generation of doctors."

The health secretary deflected the criticism by blaming the British Medical Association, calling them "irresponsible" for "spreading misinformation".

Hunt answered: "It's incredibly disappointing, the totally irresponsible way the BMA has behaved in refusing to sit down and talk about how we can improve patient care and spreading misinformation."

He added: "One of the reasons for that anger is they were told by the BMA their pay was going to be cut, it isn't. They were told they were going to have to work longer hours, they aren't...

"If you're told by your union that the health secretary wants to do these awful things, of course you're going to feel devalued."

Later on Sunday one of the junior doctors quoted earlier, Rachel Clarke, appeared on BBC News to respond.

She said: "It's extraordinary for me as a frontline junior doctor to hear my health secretary say that. I would like to believe that if her were actually committed to patient safety he would actually take seriously the concerns from the frontline of doctors like me.

"Instead there he seems to have used my concerns to have scored an opportunity to score cheap political points at the expense of the BMA.

"He says he cares about junior doctor morale but I can tell you now that the single biggest problem for my morale, the thing that is making me want to quit my profession at the moment, is not the BMA, what I hear from the union or what I read in the media, it is what he, my health secretary says.

"He spins against us, he manipulates statistics against us and quite frankly he lies."

One of the main areas for disagreement is how doctors are paid for working unsociable hours, particularly on Saturdays.

The government has tried to claim an increase in deaths at weekends is due to lack of staff, which others have disputed, saying there is not the data to support this.

Hunt told Marr: "Health secretaries have these battles but what history judges in the end is, have you done the right thing for patients?"

Dr Johann Malawana, the BMA junior doctor committee chair, said the strike had been "wholly avoidable" and was caused by Hunt's "shambolic mishandling" of the matter.

"[Hunt] risks alienating a generation of junior doctors and undermining the delivery of future patient care, which is why 98% of those junior doctors who voted, supported taking industrial action," he added.

“The BMA has been clear throughout this process that we want to reach a negotiated agreement – no doctor wants to take industrial action, and our door has always been open to talks.

"But the government is putting politics before reason, and their continued threat to impose a contract that junior doctors have roundly rejected leaves us with no option.

“Junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week and they do so under their existing contract.

"If the government want more seven-day services then, quite simply, they need more doctors, nurses and diagnostic staff, and the extra investment needed to deliver it."

  • 1 Who are junior doctors?
    Stuart Gleave via Getty Images
    Junior doctors are those doctors who have graduated from medical school but who are yet to qualify as either a consultant or general practitioner.

    Doctors are required to undertake five years of medical training and to graduate from accredited schools before entering what's known as a foundation period.

    They are then required to work as juniors after the foundation period before ascending to consultant or GP status. This means many doctors do not fully qualify until well into their 30s.
  • 2 Why are their contracts changing?
    Stuart Gleave via Getty Images
    Demands upon the NHS are increasing, and at the same time, the government wants to move towards a seven-day, out-of-hours health service.

    Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says planned contract changes will make healthcare more flexible, and more able to adapt to changing levels of demand.

    He has denied the charge that the contracts are specifically designed to lower the wage bill of doctors who'll be forced to work 'out of hours' for no extra pay.
  • 3 Why are people unhappy?
    Stuart Gleave via Getty Images
    Junior doctors are unhappy at the proposed contract's potential effect on safe working hours.

    They say that introducing new shift patterns and broadening normal working days to include hours up to 10pm may have the effect of increasing tiredness amongst medics.

    The new contracts may impinge on doctors' work-life balance, reduce time spent with their families, and may increase work-related stress. These may affect patient care, some argue.

    Dr Shebby Kamalvand wrote of the hypocrisy of the proposals - the implication that doctors are worth less than they are paid now, but are required to work more flexibly to cope with increased demand.

    The proposals may also make things less fair for those working less than full time and taking parental leave.

    But most of all, the British Medical Association believes the threat of imposition to be entirely unacceptable -- a stumbling block so large it has halted negotiations entirely.
  • 4 What do they want?
    Stuart Gleave via Getty Images
    According to the British Medical Association, which represents junior doctors in negotiations, they want: "The BMA wants the following concrete assurances in writing from the Government before we can agree to re-enter negotiations:

    - Proper recognition of unsocial hours as premium time - No disadvantage for those working unsocial hours compared to current system - No disadvantage for those working less than full time and taking parental leave compared to the current system - Pay for all work done - Proper hours safeguards protecting patients and their doctors

    The contract proposed by the Government rides roughshod over the best interests of doctors, of patients and of the NHS as a whole. Junior doctors have made it clear that they are not prepared to accept a contract that is unfair and unsafe."
  • 5 Will they get it?
    Stuart Gleave via Getty Images
    Negotiations are currently at an impasse, with both NHS Employers, which acts on behalf of government, and representatives of junior doctors refusing to budge on the threat of imposition.

    A staged introduction of the new changes could take effect whereby those joining the profession are subject to the new conditions.

    However, this may do little to tackle the dire recruitment and retention of junior doctors after the foundation period.

    Jeremy Hunt is likely to move forward in a way which brings junior doctors back around the negotiating table.
  • 6 And what if they don't?
    But there are signs of what will happen should Mr Hunt refuse to yield to doctors' demands.

    Members of his own party have highlighted cases of doctors emigrating from the UK to work as doctors elsewhere. Dr Sarah Wollaston, now a Tory MP and chair of the Commons Health Select Committee, says that her own daughter and eight of her doctor friends have left the UK for Australia.

    And it doesn't look like they'll be alone in leaving Britain. The General Medical Council has received more applications for a Certificate of Currently Professional Status so far this year as it did in the whole of 2014. The Certificate is needed if doctors wish to practice medicine abroad.

    In 2014, the GMC issued 4925 certificates. So far this year it has issued 7468, its latest figures reveal.
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